Sunday September 26, 2021

Biden announces end to combat operations in Iraq

AFP
July 28, 2021

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden declared US relations with Iraq would enter a new phase with American troops exiting combat operations in the country by year-end as he held talks Monday with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

Amid the threat of an Islamic State resurgence and Iran´s powerful influence in Baghdad, Biden stressed that Washington remains "committed to our security cooperation" while Kadhemi reaffirmed their "strategic partnership."

US troops in Iraq will "to continue to train, to assist, to help, to deal with IS as it arises," Biden said. But, in a shift that comes as the United States pulls out of Afghanistan, the US leader confirmed that the 2,500 US troops still in Iraq won't be fighting. "We´re not going to be, at the end of the year, in a combat mission," he said.

Eighteen years after the US invaded Iraq to remove strongman Saddam Hussein, and seven years after a US-led coalition battled Islamic State extremists who threatened the country, Washington turned its focus to other types of assistance. It said it would help strengthen electric power supplies, fight Covid-19, confront the impacts of climate change, and support private sector development. Some 500,000 coronavirus vaccine doses pledged to Baghdad "will be there in a couple weeks," Biden told Kadhemi in the White House.

Biden also emphasized US support for elections in October in Iraq, saying Washington is working closely with Baghdad, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations to ensure the elections are fair. "We support strengthening Iraq's democracy and we´re anxious to make sure the election goes forward," he said. Kadhemi said he was in Washington "to discuss the future of our nation.""America, they help Iraq. Together we fight, fight and defeat ISIS," he said. "Today, our relation is stronger than ever -- our partnership in the economy, the environment, health, education, culture and more."